Negro Mountain is a rare commemoration of African-Americans' role in Maryland

February 22, 2011

On Feb. 21, The Sun reported in a front page story "Tribute questioned: 'Negro Mountain' called an honor, others see racism." I take this opportunity to express myself in a very serious way on the attempt to change the designation of Maryland's "Negro Mountain" to something else. Although I realize that the term Negro is offensive to some Americans of African heritage, this effort (however well intentioned) would not yield a good result. First, from a historical perspective, "Negro" as a word is an important part of American history and neither "Black Mountain" nor "African-American Mountain" would be a good substitute.

In addition to being a scholar and a civil rights activist since my teens, I have served by gubernatorial appointment several times on the Maryland Commission for African-American History and Culture. Additionally, by two other gubernatorial appointments, I chaired the Maryland Task Force to Study History and Legacy of Slavery and was subsequently chosen as the first chairman of the Commission to Coordinate the Study, Commemoration and Impact of Slavery's History and Legacy in Maryland. In addition to these positions, I am the recent author of two publications titled "Africa in Europe," I traced the legacy of people of African descent throughout the continent of Europe from antiquity until the present.

At a time when Marylanders of African descent constitute approximately 30 percent of all Marylanders and are hardly noted other than by omission in the names of streets, neighborhoods, geographical designations or public monuments, it would be sad indeed if "Negro Mountain" were to be eliminated from Maryland. This designation is historical in much the same way as Biarritz la négresse (a hamlet immediately adjacent to the larger resort of Biarritz) is in the Basque zone of the southwest of France. I sincerely ask, even beg, that all those involved with this attempt across the board to equate "Negro" in all cases with racism without giving due regard to all the historical factors involved reconsider the parochial consequence of this perspective. Even people of good intentions with a commitment to oppose racism cannot accomplish their ends successfully by simply reading history in reverse, and surely this includes the wiping away of the name of "Negro Mountain" in Maryland.

Stefan Goodwin, Baltimore

The writer is a retired Morgan State University professor.

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